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February 2012 Washington Newsletter


Progress on RTP!

We often find ourselves writing you with discouraging news and urging you to take action. Well, I am pleased to report to you that as a result of action you have taken, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is faring well in the U. S. House of Representatives. On January 27th, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released its draft of the transportation reauthorization bill and the Committee is proposing to keep RTP with an annual authorization level of $85 million.
 
As we prepare this newsletter, the committee is actually marking up the bill! We anticipate that the RTP provision will remain intact. We will continue to follow this all very closely until the bill is approved by the full House. For all of you who took the time to contact your U. S. Representative to express support for RTP, a big THANK YOU!
 
All of this is extremely good news but we have more work to do. The battle to save RTP will continue and we will soon set our sights on the U. S. Senate where RTP is still in serious jeopardy. We expect Senate floor debate to begin in the next few weeks. We will be back in touch with you in the coming days to encourage you to reach out to your senators about the importance of preserving the Recreational Trails Program. Stay tuned...
 
U.S. Forest Service Planning Rule
 
The long wait is finally over. On January 26th, the U. S. Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and indicated its "preferred alternative" in terms of a new planning rule. A 30 day comment period will soon commence before the Record of Decision becomes final.
The proposed rule clearly acknowledges the importance of outdoor recreation on Forest Service land and specifically recognizes motorized recreation as a legitimate outdoor activity. Prior releases virtually ignored recreation in general, so we are pleased that the agency now is acknowledging and highlighting this activity.
 
The agency is proposing the "Alternate A" option as the final rule, subject to further revision in the next month or so. This is a very complicated rule and we think the only people who will be pleased will be the lawyers who will go to court contesting certain provisions in future management plans. Concepts such a "best available science" and "sustainable recreation" are difficult to define and interpret. Major arguments will ensue and lawsuits will challenge whether any specific management plan meets such standards and more. If you care to read it on your own, here's a link to the Forest Service Planning Rule "Alternative A."
The Forest Service planning team worked hard in soliciting public input when fashioning this rule. Regrettably, we believe they have fallen short in fashioning a workable rule that streamlines the planning process. We hope we are wrong, but our fear is that federal courts will be very busy in the years to come.
 
Working Together
 
We have had a very busy month working on a variety of issues. We lobbied on Capitol Hill jointly with some non-motorized groups in support of RTP. We spent time with representatives from the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to talk about the merits of RTP from both a motorized and non-motorized perspective. It is good to be able to work cooperatively with these organizations in support of something that benefits all forms of outdoor recreation.
 
We also just concluded a very productive two day meeting with a number of national OHV organizations. Our first day was spent meeting in ARRA's offices discussing current and emerging OHV issues. The morning of the second day was spent meeting with planning and recreation officials from the U. S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. In the afternoon, we were all on Capitol Hill lobbying in support of RTP.
 
We don't often have the chance to have face-to-face meetings though we do participate in regular conference calls. We thought a good way to kickoff 2012 was for all to gather in Washington, D. C. for a confab. It was time well spent and I think we all realized the value and importance of working together, whenever possible. The following organizations participated in our two-day conference:
 
American Council of Snowmobile Associations
American Motorcyclist Association
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
Blue Ribbon Coalition
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council
Recreational Off Highway Vehicle Association
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
Tread Lightly!
United Four Wheel Drive Associations
 
Looking Forward
 
The next few months are going to be extremely busy. This being an election year, all policy debates on Capitol Hill and in the federal agencies will be overshadowed by politics. For the immediate future, RTP remains a top priority for us and we hope it is yours as well. But, there are many more critical issues coming down the pike. Just as all of the above organizations are actively exploring opportunities to work together, we hope you will do the same with organizations at your state and local level. Working together means we all can accomplish so much more on behalf of OHV recreation.
 
Sincerely,
Larry E. Smith
Executive Director Americans for Responsible Recreational Access

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